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Appropriate Technology meets the Google Chromebook

Appropriate Technology meets the Google Chromebook

I met with some folks from HOPE International yesterday who are building a school and computer lab in a local slum. This was an interesting conversation because they are building a computer lab and Internet cafe for the “poorest of the poor”. This will be an interesting project and we will be working to deliver a seriously resilient solution (Chromebooks and Desktops locked down with Deep Freeze) but we’re also getting into some content that’s more appropriate for citizens who likely will not complete school.

Normally, our focus is to help kids get through school, to learn skills that will help them in their educational journey. However, we’ve realized for a long time that there’s a huge need for information that’s relevant out in the villages where folks hover below the poverty line, unable to send their kids to school.

Lisa Coggin turned me on to the “Appropriate Technology Library“, or ATL, a 2-DVD, 1,050-document library of materials on rural topics including agriculture, healthcare, “green” energy solutions, construction, rural business planning and more. The documents themselves are all pretty old (30+ years) but they are still quite relevant, especially to those working just to survive.

Unfortunately, this ATL library isn’t readily available to me here in Uganda. They say I can purchase the DVD’s for $199, or I can get a paperback version shipped to Uganda for $18-$21. The problem with the latter is that it’s next to impossible to get anything mailed here. It usually gets lost, or customs decides to hold the packages hostage unless we pay some ridiculous “tax ransom”.

So I “found” a copy of the digital ATL online, but it was a whopping 12GB. I went out and bought some high-speed internet, and a day and a half later I had the digital copy for about $45.60. It was a mess. I had to index everything, fix typos, and convert the PDF-based table of contents into HTML. I spent a half-day throwing awk and sed around and slinging HTML, but the result was decent. Then I had to pare down Khan Academy and CK-12 (I got rid of everything more complex than Algebra), GCF (I left in basic computer lessons, Office training, basic Internet training and reading lessons) and shoehorned in ATL. Good grief I’m thankful for my laptop. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt it heat up.

In the end I had 10.8GB of ATL, 6.12GB of GCF, 2.62GB of Khan, 3.7GB of Wikipedia and 2GB for hesperian, Project Gutenberg and the rest of RACHEL, all fitting on a 32GB SD Card.

For those interested in the ATL Library, here’s what I have included so far:ATL_Full.PDF.

Now, this is a hacker’s solution, and I can’t exactly distribute it like this “legally”. I have to find a way to get ATL to allow us to distribute this content because it’s going to change people’s lives for the better.

I plan to support ATL by buying paper copies of the book and trying to ship them here but the Chromebook solution will really open a lot of doors.

The ATL Library page on the Chromebook

The ATL Library page on the Chromebook